Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Draft approach.
General manager Jerry Angelo's background is a scouting director, so for most of his Bears tenure he accumulated and guarded draft picks as if they were gold. In his first seven drafts with the Bears, he made 28 picks in the first three rounds (an average of four per year). But Angelo has changed his team-building process in the past two years, releasing that grip when offered the opportunity to acquire more established players. He gutted the top of the 2009 and 2010 drafts in trades for quarterback Jay Cutler and late defensive end Gaines Adams, supplementing those losses by signing veteran free agents to fill individual needs. It's not a bad idea when considering Angelo's current situation. The more immediate approach will either work or, after already missing the playoffs for three consecutive years, it will be a mess someone else has to clean up.
The talent gap in Detroit remains wide enough that the Lions will continue following their new mantra under general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz: Talent must trump need at every pick. That was the case last year, when the Lions considered tight end Brandon Pettigrew the best player on their board at the No. 20 overall pick, and will resume in 2010. It is the Lions' luxury and curse. Although some positions are more dire than others, the team needs help at all of them except quarterback. So while the Lions' ideal scenario would be to grab multiple linemen in the first three rounds, they can't afford to force it by passing up players they consider more talented -- no matter what position they play.
The Packers have largely sat out the free-agent market over the past four years, leaving them to fill all of their needs through the draft. As a result, general manager Ted Thompson hasn't been afraid to trade down to accumulate additional picks and provide maximum depth on his roster. This tack values volume over elite pedigree but has brought players like receiver Greg Jennings and defensive tackle Johnny Jolly to the team. Thompson did trade up last year to grab linebacker Clay Matthews in the first round, but in general that has been an exception to his rule. I'm guessing the Packers wouldn't be opposed to moving below their No. 23 overall pick this year if it means an additional choice in the late second or early third round.
Minnesota vice president Rick Spielman inherited a relatively talented roster in 2007 and thus has used the draft to target individual players his scouts have identified for specific roles on the team. By my count, Spielman has made seven draft-day trades to position himself to take the players he wanted over the past three years. Those players include receiver Sidney Rice (2007), safety Tyrell Johnson (2008) and linebacker Jasper Brinkley (2009). Expect more of the same this year from Spielman, who has the luxury of drafting purely for value rather than need.